Cheers and applause erupted from the public gallery of council chambers Monday night as city council inched closer to banning pay parking at the new hospital.
Council approved first and second reading of a bylaw that if passed, will prohibit parking fees on land zoned as Public Areas One – a designation applied to the new hospital site. Council also directed city staff to set a public hearing which will give the community the opportunity to speak to the potential parking ban.
At Monday’s council meeting, Coun. Larry Samson thanked city staff for crafting the draft bylaw as well as Lois and Ed Jarvis with the North Island Citizens for Quality Healthcare group, for “their patience.”
Kevin Brooks, the city’s development services supervisor, said the wording of the bylaw amendment – which allows the city to regulate pay parking – was vetted by the city’s legal counsel.
But, he added, the city could still be subject to an appeal.
“Enforcement of the zoning bylaw parking provisions may result in a legal challenge,” Brooks said. “It is estimated that this could cost the city $20,000 or greater in legal fees.”
Island Health announced in the fall of 2015 that once the new hospitals open this fall in Campbell River and the Comox Valley, that it intends to charge for parking at both facilities.
The health authority has said that parking fee revenues will go towards parking lot management, maintenance and security instead of diverting money for patient care towards those services.
The provincial government has backed Island Health’s decision despite pressure from local governments, including the Strathcona Regional District, Mount Waddington Regional District (North Island) and the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board to re-think the pay parking model.
The regional hospital board even passed a resolution that it would support its member municipalities in passing a bylaw to prohibit any type of parking fees at the new North Island hospitals.
Campbell River council has debated the idea since early last year when Coun. Samson suggested Campbell River follow the municipality of Delta’s lead in banning pay parking at its hospital through a zoning bylaw.
In December, council directed city staff to come back with a draft bylaw that would ban pay parking in all Public Area One zones which encompass health, social, educational, recreational and other uses.
The clause city staff have suggested reads, “Pay parking is not a permitted ancillary use on parcels zoned Public Areas One (PA-1).”
In order for that amendment to pass, council will have to give third reading and adoption to that clause following the public hearing which will likely take place Feb. 6 prior to the regular council meeting. The bylaw amendment would then be up for third reading and adoption at subsequent council meetings.
If council decides not to go through with the ban on pay parking, it’s still unclear how much staff and visitors to the Campbell River Hospital will be charged.
Island Health said in 2015 that it’s committed to providing the lowest of the rates at either St. Joseph’s in the Comox Valley or Nanaimo Regional Hospital.
St. Joseph’s parking rates are $1.50 for one hour, $2.25 for two hours, $7 daily and $25 for a weekly permit. Nanaimo Regional’s rates are $2.25 for the first two hours, and $1.25 for every additional hour with a weekly permit costing $26.75.
Island Health has said that hospital volunteers, hospital auxiliary members, spiritual/pastoral care providers, renal patients and family caregivers will be exempt from parking fees and that hardship provisions will be in place to waive or reduce parking fees where they pose a genuine financial challenge to patients and families.